Monday, September 1, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: Leiden, the Netherlands

I haven't been in Leiden for very long, but I already know that it's a great place to be.  In a way, it's like living in the Twin Cities.  When you come to Minnesota without being Minnesotan, you're probably not sure what the Twin Cities has to offer as far as things to do.  Maybe you heard about the really active theater climate, but that's kind of expensive to do and there isn't always a matinee to attend.  So what do you do during the day?

Leiden was very similar for me, as someone who has never been to the Netherlands before and is not even a little bit Dutch.  I had never heard of Leiden before I started looking for study abroad programs.  Even when I was on the plane heading to Amsterdam, I wondered to myself, "What is there to do?"  I'm not one for night life, so I need things to do during the day.

Turns out, there's plenty to do!  Except for Mondays, when most of the museums are closed, we've found out.  Eventually I'll talk about the things I have found to do around Leiden, but right now, I just want to introduce you to where I live right now.
This is the street I walk/bike down to get pretty much
anywhere I want to go.  If I have class, need to do
laundry (at least until the washers and driers are fixed
in my building), or need groceries and other supplies,
this is the way I go.  It's the most direct way to the
center of Leiden, where just about everything
happens.  It also leads to the road that makes up a
circle around Leiden, which I've heard is a nice route to
cycle.  A friend of mine living on my floor biked around
the circle and it took her about forty minutes (which
included taking some wrong turns and getting a little lost)
to make the round.  Maybe that'll give you an idea of
how big Leiden is.

This is the outside of the building where I live on Hugo
de Grootstraat.  As I said before in my video last time,
this building is for International Students (it's so weird
for me to think of myself as an International Student
now!) and it's all single dorms.  That's just the norm for
student housing in the Netherlands, if not all of Europe.
My building is about a five minute bike ride or a fifteen
minute walk to both of my class buildings (I'm taking
classes mostly through Central College, but I'm also
taking two philosophy courses at Leiden University,
the oldest university in the Netherlands).

This is the door to the Central College campus in Leiden.
This is where I've been doing orientation when we
haven't been walking around Leiden and this is also
where I'll be taking classes such as Dutch I and
The Netherlands and Its European Context as well
as (hopefully) drawing and history.  Cross your
fingers for me.
Of course there are canals everywhere!  It wouldn't
be a Dutch city without the canals.  Well, it probably
would be, but I haven't been around the Netherlands
too much yet.

Leiden is a busy college town.  We've realized many times over that there's usually something going on, you just have to look for it.  Last night when we were wandering around in search of a restaurant to eat dinner at, the girls in my program and our friend from Chile ran into this street fair type of place.  It's in front of the Pieterskerk (church), so it's not here all the time we know.  We think that it was part of Leiden University's orientation week.  There were tons of food vendors.  You'd think that there would be Dutch food everywhere, but you might be surprised to know that the Dutch don't really have a cuisine.  Kind of like the U.S.  The U.S. is considered to be a melting pot, so when I'm asked what kind of cuisine we have, I'm really at a loss of what to say.  The Netherlands is kind of a country of the rest of the world.  You can find Indonesian food, Thai food, West African food, and a lot of other different types of food, but I have yet to find a Dutch restaurant (bakeries don't really count, though we do have a Freesian bakery near us).

I've started taking pictures more consistently, so I just want to share some of my favorites with you:

Canal at sun down.  I'm very lucky.
In the corner is Kristen (Central College), Isadora (Masters student at Leiden University), and Abby (Central College).
Canal this morning when I went on a bit of a ride.  It's next to Rembrandtpark.
There you go, proof that I'm actually here!
A replica of the windmill Rembrandt's father might have

Well, this is my home for the next four and a half or so months!

Thanks for Reading!  Tot Ziens!



  1. Megan, we do have our own cuisine in the US. . .it's called "hotdish" and "jello". You'll probably look long and hard to find either of them over there:)
    Glad you're enjoying your stay. I'm gathering that you feel safe motivating around Leiden alone? Seems like a fairly clean city and love, love the canals. Love you. Grandma S.

  2. Even then, hotdish and jello aren't "cuisinnes" everywhere in the U.S. :)

    Yes, I feel safe going around Leiden alone. Mainly during the day though. I get nervous walking home at night. I have a night class on Wednesdays, so that's the only day I deal with it really. Even at night, I don't get the feeling that I'm unsafe. But I still keep my key out. Just in case.


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